I recently received a very nice Facebook message from a woman in India who had seen my TEDx talk on the skill of humor. In it, she asked a common question people have about building their skill of humor: how do I get started?
To answer that question, first let me start with a question of my own: what do the following thoughts have in common?
- What is the etymology of the phrase, “tall drink of water?”
- If a blind man was a bouncer at a club, he’d have to feel people’s faces to check their age.
- Off Brand super heroes: Philosophical Female aka Wonder Woman.
The answer: they’re all entries in my humor notebook. They are half-baked ideas that I had at some point over the past year that I deemed worthy enough to write down to possibly explore some day.
None of them are jokes… yet. But that’s the value of a humor notebook, a tool that nearly every comedian uses. A notebook is a great way to start building your humor skill because it’s very hard to sit down and go, “Okay, now be funny.” Instead, it’s much easier to play with an idea and explore and heighten it in different ways.
For example, we could take the first idea above and try to make it funny. We could come up with our own ideas for where the phrase came from:
- Is this how people complimented each other in the desert?
- Was it first uttered by a doctor who was really into drinking 8 cups of water a day?
Or we could explore what other phrases could exist: might you compliment someone by calling them a “big plate of spaghetti?”
The actual answer doesn’t matter, it’s more about exploring a concept with our own humorous ideas.
So if you want to get start building your humor skill, start a humor notebook. And whenever you have a “Hmm, that’s interesting” thought, write it down so you can play with it later.